Thailand's Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday said it had approved the caretaker government's request to use 20 billion baht (615 million U.S. dollars) from the Central Fund to pay farmers the dues owed under the rice-pledging scheme. But the government must repay all the money before May 31, 2014, EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn was quoted by Bangkok Post as saying. Moreover, this payment must not impose a financial burden on the next government, Somchai added. This is the second time the EC has given the caretaker government the green light to use part of the contingency fund to make long-overdue rice payments. In late February, the EC permitted the government to disburse 712 million baht (21.9 million U.S. dollars) from the Central Fund to pay 3,971 farmers in five provinces. The Thai government started buying rice from farmers at above- market prices in 2011 to shore up rural incomes, fulfilling a campaign pledge by the Pheu Thai Party, which won a parliamentary majority that year. Currently, the government owes about 130 billion baht (4 billion U.S. dollars) to around 1 million farmers nationwide. On Tuesday, about 200 farmers and anti-government protesters marched to the Royal Thai Police Office to lodge a petition, accusing caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, several other state officials and two agencies of cheating in the rice- pledging scheme.